November 14, 2018 / 12:18 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Merck drug Keytruda succeeds in late-stage esophageal cancer trial

(Adds details, quote from executive)

Nov 14 (Reuters) - Merck & Co's blockbuster drug Keytruda met the main goal of a late-stage trial testing the treatment in patients with cancers of the digestive tract, the U.S. drugmaker said on Wednesday.

Keytruda, among a class of medicines called PD-1 inhibitors, is Merck's top selling drug and has already been approved to treat several forms of cancer including skin and lung cancer.

PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors work by blocking a mechanism of tumors that allows them to evade detection by cancer-fighting cells.

Keytruda, when compared to chemotherapy, enabled certain patients with esophageal cancer to live longer, helping the drug meet the main goal of the late-stage study, Merck said.

"This marks the sixth tumor type where Keytruda has demonstrated a survival benefit, and represents the first time an anti-PD-1 therapy has achieved overall survival for this patient population," said Roy Baynes, chief medical officer of Merck Research Laboratories.

Esophageal cancer is the seventh most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, the company said.

Merck said trial results would be presented at an upcoming medical meeting. (Reporting by Manas Mishra and Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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